According to strict federal guidelines, the air packs must be replaced every 15 years. As the 15 year deadline approaches, dozens and dozens are in need of repair. Before firefighters can save a life, they must suit up in their protective gear. The key component is the SCBA’s which give firefighters the ability to breathe. “We bet our lives on it every time we go in,” Springfield Fire Chief David Hall said.
The department applied but failed to get a grant to buy new SCBA's. Many air packs aren't safe to wear. “You can see the straps will have to be replaced,” Hall said while holding up a damaged SCBA. “On this one the regulator is off and needs to be worked on.” If the packs fail the firefighter, could be caught inside a fire without air. “This one says the air is leaking from the regulator which makes them run out of air that much faster.” A malfunctioning SCBA could also explode.
The department is trying to repair their aging equipment. “The position that works on SCBA’s is one of the most respected because everyone else’s life depends on that person,” Hall said. A closet is filled with SCBA’s that are beyond repair. “Now they strip all of these for parts,” Hall said.
City council members will decide if they will use Hotel-Motel subsidy funds to purchase new SCBA’s. “From my perspective there is just no way they can't be replaced, whether it's now a year from now or two years from now,” Hall said. “We know that time is getting short.”
The fire department purchased the current SCBA's in 2000. If they are not replaced by 2015, the department would be required to stop making interior attacks on fires. It would also affect firefighter’s ability to handle hazardous materials.
Several other departments are requesting funding from the Hotel-Motel subsidy including the health department, human resources and public works. The police department is also asking to unfreeze several data entry positions and equip police vehicles with cameras.